How to Stand Out as a Small Business in a Competitive Environment

As a small business owner, you certainly know the statistics about business failure rates. Only half of businesses make it past five years, and only one third survive past ten years.  In years past, all you really needed to drive customers into a business was a memorable slogan or catchphrase and a high-quality ad campaign. However, nowadays, potential customers see so many advertisements throughout the day that they generally just ignore them – from social media, ads popping up on their web pages, tickers on news channels, social media, etc.  

One of the main reason businesses fail is because they lack differentiation from their competition.  Now more than ever, it is crucial to stand out from your competition. If you do not do this, you will just get lost in the shuffle and look like every other business out there.

Focus on a specific niche and make it clear to customers

It is said that when you try to serve everyone, you serve no one. Focus on a specific, relatively narrow niche or service. Trying to offer a huge variety of products or services is not cost effective for small businesses.

It is your job to clearly inform customers of what you offer, how it is different than your competitors’, and what it can offer or how it can benefit them. Customers need to know nearly immediately if your business is a good fit or solution for their needs.  

Meet A Need

Some of the best ideas/products/services are inspired by an unmet need. Think about common problems people experience and find a way to solve or address it. This is a great way to win over customers and stand out from the crowd.   

Listen To Your Customers

Criticism is not always easy to take, especially when you are like most small business owners and have invested everything you have into your business. Oftentimes, an unsatisfied customer or criticism may feel like a personal attack. However, it is extremely important to view these moments as valuable learning experiences. If it is a genuine complaint, use this feedback to improve your product or service even more. Learning what your customer wants directly from them is a great opportunity.

Follow through and deliver an extraordinary experience

Obviously, every business claims that their product or service is the best and is different. Merely stating it is not enough – you must follow through on your claims. Find a way to go a step beyond what your competitors are offering – whether it is a better warranty, guarantee, return policy, shipping service, etc.  

Potential customers are always concerned about the risk involved in buying a product or service. No one wants to lose money. Guarantees are an excellent way to alleviate those concerns and make your company appear more trustworthy. You need to have an extraordinary product, service, or selling point that customers cannot get anywhere else.

Team up with a cause

You primarily see larger companies teaming up with a cause, but you can do it on a smaller, local level, too. Is there a cause that you really want to join in or support? Allowing customers to give back to the community or to a cause is a great marketing tool and a way to make your company stand out from the competition. This “partnership” benefits both the cause and your business.  Win-win.


Social networking immediately comes to mind, and it is not to be underestimated. Social media is one of the most powerful tools in your “toolbox” when it comes to making your business stand out from the competition.  

Customers are more likely to remember your business if they are regularly exposed to your company’s name, products, or services. Social media is an excellent way to do this. Your customers are your most valuable asset. Nothing brings business in or makes your business stand out better than recommendations from customers. “Word of mouth” advertising is still one of the best ways out there. Another great way to utilize social media is to create media contests – this gets the customer to spread the word about your business while allowing them to have input.

There are obviously scores of other ways to make your business stand out from the competition, but these few ideas should at least get your “creative juices flowing.” You can do it!